More Than Money
brown on green, A Regular column about finances
Aunt Hazel's Tomato Farm
I was born in Bradley County, Arkansas. Bradley County’s main claim to fame, however, is not the production of Browns (although many have been produced there) but tomatoes. The county hosts the Pink Tomato Festival each June, where its most famous crop is displayed prominently and consumed.
While I did not grow up in Bradley County, I spent several weeks there during tomato-picking seasons. Uncle Fay and Aunt Hazel Mann raised the finest tomatoes in the county. Even though I’m no expert on growing tomatoes, I learned several valuable lessons from my time with them.
Lessons From the Land
Producing a good crop every year required hard work. Work began the previous year after tomato plants stopped producing. It was important to disc the field and mulch the plants, which were later plowed under as fertilizer. Later, land that remained undisturbed all winter was broken up, fertilized, and planted. The soil was prepared.
I also learned growing tomatoes is risky. No one is guaranteed a good crop. A spring storm can leave wind and hail damage. Too much rain is as bad as too little rain. The possibility of damage from insects looms every year. Some risks can be reduced through proper management, but some are acts of God.
Tomato farming does not always produce a profit. Sometimes, proceeds from the crop do not meet expenses. Yet with the land, hard work, and careful management of risk, farmers anticipate a nice profit.
Managing Money Today
The lessons from Aunt Hazel’s tomato farm carry over to my work at Free Will Baptist Foundation, where I help manage endowments. Funds placed with the Foundation are like the land. For endowments to produce a good and consistent income, they must be managed carefully.
In 2003, the Foundation Board voted to pay out 5%, instead of all the earnings on planned gifts. This enables us to “prepare the field” for future harvests by planting excess earnings into the endowment to produce a larger financial crop for future generations. This will make it possible for Free Will Baptist ministries to receive a steady income, even during down markets. The excess earnings “plowed” back into the endowment “soil” can be used to grow a consistent return.
Risk also must be managed properly. Some advise taking no risks at all, but that would be like a tomato farmer refusing to plant a crop because he might lose money. Like the prudent farmer, everything possible must be done to manage financial risk. But risk is part of the process of producing a crop. At the Foundation, we balance a mixture of stocks and bonds to minimize risk, but it can never be completely eliminated.
Many Free Will Baptist individuals, churches, and organizations have given the Foundation “land” to farm. Thank you! Based on current policy, it is conceivable that over $400,000 in earnings will be harvested this year alone to support various Free Will Baptist ministries.
At the Foundation, we want to be good stewards of that which is placed in our hands and do our best to produce a good crop of earnings every year. What portion of your money do you want the Foundation to farm? We’ll treat you right!
About the Writer: David Brown, CPA, became director of the Free Will Baptist Foundation in 2007. Send your questions to David at email@example.com. To learn how the Foundation can help you become a more effective giver, call 877-336-7575.